Saturday, 23 February 2013

Churnet Valley Steam Gala

Back to Consall box at last! The railway's February Steam Gala is the first time since October that more than one train at a time has run and therefore the first time that Consall signal box (where the trains pass on the otherwise single line) has been in use since then.

I arrived at Cheddleton soon after 08:00 this morning, and Southern Railway 'U' class loco was simmering at the head of its train, ready for its 08:30 departure to Cauldon Lowe
I was rostered as trainee at Consall signal box but had decided to park at Cheddleton and ride on one of the locomotives to Consall (the S160 and the N7 tank were timetabled to run light engine to Consall at 08:50).

The N7's driver checks his steed; my transport, the S160 which will lead to Consall is wreathed in steam, invisible, to the rear of the N7. They will run tender (and bunker!) first down the valley.

On board the S160, awaiting departure from Cheddleton
  A closer look at that enormous fire! Just keep a good back 
end, and it'll shake down to the front (in theory!).

Here are some videos I took of the trains today. Turn up the volume and preferably use headphones for the full sound effect:

The fireman gets a few round on in the S160 at Cheddleton this morning

Before we can go, we need the staff! (our authority to travel the line)

The driver opens the regulator - and off we go!

Looking forward round the tender as we arrive at Consall

Videoed from the signal box steps, the S160 departs Consall for Froghall to pick up its train. Once past signal 13, Howard (who is in the Box) drops it back to danger.

Some time later the S160 returns from Frogahall with its train for its first stop at Consall on its way up to Cauldon Lowe. With the Big Yank still some way away, the gentle hiss-thump..... hiss-thump of the steam-driven air pump on the N7 tank engine (waiting in the other platform) can be heard.

The Southern 'U'class (visiting from the Mid Hants Railway) arrives at Consall from Froghall on the second Cauldon Lowe train of the day. As it rolls in, signalman Howard collects the token from the loco crew.

We also ran a freight train as the public and the photographers like to see some variety on these gala weekends. Here the N7 tank engine leaves Consall on that train.

The big S160 blows off vigourously in Consall station prior to departure. I love that chime whistle she blows just before she sets off and before she reaches the Black Lion foot crossing. As the rear of the train (a DMU acting as extra passenger coaches) passes the Black Lion pub the driver opens her up and she strides away down the valley.

At the end of the day the N7 tank, having left its train at Froghall, is attached as pilot engine to the 'U' class, again mostly as a photo opportunity for our visitors.

I was in Consall box again on the second day of the gala, Sunday 24th February, with Roger as the signalman. We had a track circuit failure in the morning, but luckily the S&T (Signal & Telegraph) men were working in the signal box basement and soon fixed the fault (a duff battery).

The basement of Consall signal box, with electrical and mechanical interlocking of points and signals, and power supplies for the equipment

 Malc and Ivan visited late morning on the same bikes we were out on last Sunday. They were frozen when they arrived, but soon thawed out in the cosy box as they watched us working the trains up and down the valley, amazed at quite how much is involved in even a simple box like Consall. They stayed with us almost until we closed the box at about 3pm. That's an early finish for us, but after that time there would be only one train at a time in the valley, so no need to use Consall loop for passing.

Talking of passing, I've been chasing our signal inspector, Nick, to assess me for passing as signalman. I'll need to chase him more vigourously I think or else it'll never happen!


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